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15 people to watch in 2019

From Meggs to Mitchell, Haydn to Harrington, Khan to Kelleher: the 15 industry protagonists you won’t be able to ignore next year.

Haydn Mursell Kier 2

Haydn Mursell Kier 2

1) Haydn Mursell

Following Kier’s launch of a £264m rights issue in response to lenders reducing their exposure to the industry, CEO Hayden Mursell said at least four other major contractors will also struggle to get credit from banks.

Kier’s net debt position (standing at £624m as of 31 October) has meant the contractor’s finances and performance have been increasingly scrutinised over the course of the year.

As chief executive of one of the most-watched firms for people assessing the financial health of the industry, Mr Mursell will be under the microscope in 2019.

In response to the contractor’s order book jumping from £8.9bn to £10.2bn over the 12 months to 30 June, he said: “We’re not chasing revenue at all. I’m much more focused on profit and cash generation.” Analysts will be looking for further evidence of this approach in the coming year.

2) Sadiq Khan

The mayor of London has repeatedly made industry headlines for the wrong reasons in 2018, with the fallout from the Crossrail delay leading to him being accused of misleading the public.

Mr Khan’s plans to build more affordable homes in the capital have also failed to yield notable results. The London Assembly’s housing committee has said fewer than 5,500 affordable homes were completed in 2017/18, compared with an average of more than 10,000 a year in the last decade. 

With the London mayoral elections drawing nearer and opposition candidates lined up, Mr Khan will need to deliver. His legacy to the construction industry will play a big part in his ability to get reelected.

Sarah Beale interim chief executive CITB

Sarah Beale interim chief executive CITB

3) Sarah Beale

Following the industry’s vote to retain the CITB in October 2017 – on the condition that it undergoes major reform – chief executive Sarah Beale has stayed out of the limelight over the past 12 months as reforms have taken hold.

The body announced it will cut its staff numbers down to 600 from the current total of 1,370 in April, as it reforms itself into a “strategic coordination” body.

CITB will also outsource a substantial portion of its inhouse administrative activities from February 2019.

With the UK set to leave the EU in March 2019 and all the concerns around access to European labour that comes with that, the industry will need the CEO of its training board to lead from the front, with work then gearing up in the second half of the year on the CITB’s consensus. It’s results time for the skills body and Ms Beale will hope to draw on improving relationships with industry leaders. 

4) Brian Morrisroe

Morrisroe Group has gone from strength to strength in the past couple of years under the leadership of CEO Brian Morrisroe.

The contractor’s most recent accounts saw turnover increase to £214.4m for the year to 31 October 2017, up from £162.4m, while pre-tax profit rose from £14.3m to £16.2m and cash reserves more than doubled to £68.2m.

In July Mr Morrisroe said the firm was looking for acquisition opportunities following its strong results – and now looks set to buy Cementation Skanska. A member of the Construction Leadership Council, Mr Morrisroe is well-placed to hammer home the market’s needs at a political level.

Theresa May prime minister JB6TEX

Theresa May prime minister JB6TEX

5) Theresa May

The knives had been out for the prime minister Theresa May from many within her own party long before the no-confidence vote was triggered last week.

Mrs May promised to step down before the 2022 election – cited as one of the main reasons she was able to see off the leadership challenge.

With her Brexit deal due to be voted on in parliament in January and the UK expected to leave the EU in March, Mrs May staying in position has a massive impact on the construction sector. Those waiting in the wings, including Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, could take decisions with major ramifications on the future of infrastructure such as HS2 and Heathrow, not to mention the prospect of no-deal.

6) Karen Davenport

Following the surprise departure of frameworks stalwart Keith Rayner to McLaren at the start of the year, Bam has appointed Karen Davenport to the role of frameworks director.

Ms Davenport has taken over an important part of the business that has been successful part of Bam’s makeup in the last decade. Bam CEO James Wimpenny has said he wants 60 per cent of the contractor’s work to come from the public sector. Bam’s ability to keep itself in the mix and deliver on existing frameworks is crucial to its future success.

7) Andrew Haines

Away from Crossrail, HS2 and Tideway’s battles with costs, Network Rail has a new CEO and a pipeline of £35bn to spend. Rail infrastructure upgrades, timetabling, signalling have all made negative headlines in the last year. Mark Carne’s departure sees Andrew Haines step up to probably the most difficult major client in the industry to run successfully.

Skills will be an increasing challenge, but Network Rail’s ability to innovate, embrace new tech solutions and modern methods of construction and to get the right people working on its projects, including by improving payment practices, will be crucial. Like his predecessor, Mr Haines’ previous role was outside the industry at the Civil Aviation Authority, though he had already built up decades of experience in the rail sector prior to that. He comes with a glowing endorsement from chairman Sir Peter Hendry and takes over at a difficult time. He’ll need thick skin and to prove himself right away. 

Andy Mitchell chief executive Thames Tideway Tunnel

Andy Mitchell chief executive Thames Tideway Tunnel

8) Andy Mitchell

Tideway CEO Andy Mitchell succeeded Andrew Wolstenholme as co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council in October 2018.

Tideway has been lauded for its progressive approach and aim of targeting gender parity among its workforce by 2022, and many will be hoping Mr Mitchell’s appointment at the CLC will see the industry body make a real difference.

Away from the industry change agenda, Tideway is seeking to cut costs. With major infrastructure like Crossrail, the Northern Line Extension and HS2 under pressure, delivering Tideway on time and on budget just got even more important.

9) Hannah Vickers

Hannah Vickers became the youngest chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering when she was appointed to the role in June 2018.

Highly rated within Whitehall from her time advising ministers on infrastructure policy prior to joining the ICE, Ms Vickers left her role as head of policy and external affairs there to take the top role at ACE, becoming the first woman to lead it in the process.

A civil engineer by trade, Ms Vickers has also advised the governments of Argentina, Brazil and China in infrastructure planning. 

10) Mark Cutler

Following a boardroom power struggle in November 2017 in which Van Elle founder Michael Ellis attempted to regain control of the company, Mark Cutler was appointed CEO in May 2018.

The intervening months saw former CEO Jon Fenton step down while the ground engineering specialist’s pre-tax profit fell by 1.2 per cent.

Mr Cutler has set about steadying the ship with a raft of senior appointments, and he will be encouraged to know that 99.9 per cent of shareholders were happy for him to remain on the firm’s remuneration committee, at a time when they revolted against director pay rises.

Andrew Wyllie CEO chief executive Costain

Andrew Wyllie CEO chief executive Costain

11) Andrew Wyllie

Costain CEO and new ICE president Andrew Wyllie will have a lot on his mind going into 2019.

At the top of his agenda will be the unique challenges facing his firm through its involvement in HS2 and Tideway that will give him plenty to think about.

The firm took a £350m order book hit in August 2017 when it pulled out of a marine works contract on Hinkley Point C, but did enjoy some better news seven months later when its energy division returned profit in March.

Costain has been seen as the sector’s shining light in recent years, with a focus on blue-chip clients and being at the forefront of the tech revolution. Will 2019 continue to be as fruitful?

12) Richard Harrington

The de facto construction minister, Richard Harrington moved to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in June 2017.

During his time in the role, Mr Harrington has certainly been more visible at industry events than some of his predecessors, and has spoken out against Kier’s use of extended payment terms.

With a turbulent political and economic year ahead, it would be useful for the industry to have some stability in this role – providing the Tories remain in power, of course.

13) Katie Kelleher

Katie Kelleher is a crane operator who has worked on some of the biggest infrastructure projects in London, such as Tideway and Crossrail.

She has been a staunch supporter of multiple initiatives to get more women into the industry, as well as acting as an ambassador for the sector at schools and wider events and is as important a voice for the industry’s recruitment of young people and women through her ambassadorial approach to social media as anyone.

Alongside her efforts to get more young women into the industry through apprenticeships, she is set to be an important voice in the industry during 2019 with skills shortages threatening to intensify and will hopefully inspire more to follow her path.

Tony Meggs CEO Infrastructure and Projects Authority

Tony Meggs CEO Infrastructure and Projects Authority

14) Tony Meggs

After four years as chief executive of the Major Projects Authority and then the Infrastructure and Projects Authority after the two were merged in 2016, Tony Meggs has now taken over chairman of Crossrail.

He will be keen to restore some public trust into the troubled scheme as a matter of urgency, after Crossrail suffered a horrendous year punctured by cost overruns and multiple delays.

15) Kelly Tolhurst

Minister for small businesses Kelly Tolhurst is currently leading a government call for evidence on late payments with 2019 set to be a pivotal year for industry change in this area.

Her initiative will consider the best way companies can tackle late payments at board level, which could include giving a non-executive director responsibility for the company’s prompt payment performance.

With signatories to the prompt payment code often being accused of flouting its rules, this would be a step in the right direction for boosting its enforcement.

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